ABSTRACT

Consumption of seeds has increased in recent years due to their high nutrient content. However, Salmonella outbreaks associated with the consumption of low-water-activity food items have also increased, although these food items do not support microbial growth. The main goal of this study was to quantify microbial indicators and to determine the prevalence and content of Salmonella in chia, amaranth, and sesame seeds obtained from Mexican retail outlets. In addition, the behavior of this pathogen on seeds was evaluated. One hundred samples of each product (chia, amaranth, and sesame seeds) were collected from Queretaro City markets. Aerobic plate count, coliforms, and Escherichia coli bacteria were quantified, and the presence and number of Salmonella pathogens were also determined. Chia, amaranth, and sesame seeds (1 kg each) were inoculated with a cocktail of five Salmonella strains (∼6 log CFU mL−1) and stored at ambient temperature, and then populations of Salmonella were quantified. The median aerobic plate count contents in chia, amaranth, and sesame seeds were 2.1, 2.4, and 3.8 log CFU g−1, respectively, and the content of coliforms on the seeds ranged from 0.48 to 0.56 log most probable number (MPN) per g. E. coli was present at low concentrations in the three types of seeds. Salmonella was detected in chia (31%), amaranth (15%), and sesame (12%) seeds, and the population ranged from 0.48 to 0.56 log MPN g−1. Salmonella levels decreased through 240 days of storage, showing inactivation rates of 0.017, 0.011, and 0.016 log CFU h−1 in chia, amaranth, and sesame seeds, respectively. The high prevalence of Salmonella in the seeds highlights potential risks for consumers, particularly given that seeds are generally consumed without treatments guaranteeing pathogen inactivation.

HIGHLIGHTS
  • The microbial indicator content on seeds showed high dispersion.

  • E. coli was present on seeds at low concentrations (median 0.48 log MPN g−1).

  • On average, the prevalence of Salmonella on seeds was 19.3%.

  • Salmonella survived at least 240 days in chia, amaranth, and sesame seeds.

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